Training Planning - Part 3

Training Setting

We are now at the point at which we need to consider the individual sessions to be put into your schedule. This is always a subject that will create a lot of debate amongst runners as to what each individual should be doing. The sessions that are set should be specific to the individual, aimed at their needs - even when it is within a group setting. For this reason we recommend that you plan this very carefully or make sure your coach is working with your specific needs in mind and not just throwing you in with “the group” on all sessions, if you feel this doesn’t suit what you are doing.

There are many dozens of pages on detailing the types of training that can be done. Because we don’t know your specific fitness levels and requirements we don’t recommend specific schedules, but a number of possible sessions aresuggested which you can try and fit into your schedule as time goes on. Alternatively you can find a coach who will help mould these and other sessions into a plan to bring the best out of your running (we provide coaching if there isn’t someone you feel is suitable for you locally, or you need a change and feel what we have laid out here makes sense to you).

Before you can decide on what you are going to do, you first need to decide on what you want to get out of your running and what resources you have to try to achieve that. This is crucial and forms quite a long list.

Suggested Sessions

Long Slow Run

Most distance runners will do one of these a week. It is generally a run during which you are out for between 1˝ and 2˝ hours, running at a slow pace which is almost 100% aerobic (approximately, this means your heart rate stays below 140 bpm)

Interval Running

It is hard to be specific here because each individual’s aims and fitness will vary considerably. The aims of these sessions will also differ, but will generally be at a pace around or slightly quicker than race pace, with the recoveries being long enough to allow the body some degree of recuperation.

During the interval the body will experience an increased level of lactate, which the body learns to deal with during the recoveries – which should be long enough to allow this to happen (a recommended level is that the athletes pulse should drop to 100-110 bpm – however this will alter according to the aims of the session).

It is important for the individual / coach to work out what works for them. It is common for 5000/10000m runners to do intervals of 1000m at about race pace. It will take a bit of experimentation to find out how many intervals pace is right for you, and at what pace. You will want to work hard, but not be totally exhausted at the end of these sessions – in a way that would affect the efficacy of future sessions.

A good starting point here might be to do 4 runs with 3 minutes between each, and then adjust this incrementally until the correct number is found for the effort required. You will need to decide beforehand if it is your current pace that you are going to work at – or if it is the pace at which you aspire (realistically) to achieve.

Speed work

This is another term that you will often hear from athletes. For any runner who isn’t an out-and-out sprinter, this refers to work done at a greater speed than you would run during races. For distance runners this means an increase in the anaerobic levels of training, with a view to teaching the body to cope with the higher paced running, so when normal race pace is run it feels considerably easier.

Commonly, 400m – 600m intervals would be used for this – trying to run about 2 seconds / 100m (or about 30secs / mile) quicker than race pace. Again the specifics of the individual sessions will vary with the individual, but starting at about 5 or 6 repetitions with a 2 minutes recovery - or 3 or 4 with a 30 second recovery - will be about right.

Tempo Runs

Sometimes this will have an adjective ascribed to it, such as 'intensive' or 'long, slow', but here we will just use them as a term to describe a hard, continuous run at about 90% effort. These are good runs for race preparation. (It is good to keep your pulse at between 80% and 90% of its maximum for these runs).

Recovery / Easy Runs

These should be as they sound. They are light sessions run at a moderate pace, which will keep your legs loose and help with maintaining your fitness. They shouldn’t leave you significantly tired afterwards or they may affect future sessions.

Additional (non-running) training

You will find that it is important to ensure that you are both strong enough and mobile enough to run with the efficiency that you desire.

This will mean undertaking some stretching (pre and post sessions) and if you are particularly inflexible in any area, then also some specific work on these muscles would be useful – with stretches being held for a significant amount of time (about 1 minute) to try to improve your range of movement.

Improving your strength and often your core strength is very important. This will be done with a mixture of circuits and weights. It is worth incorporating one or the other of these into your schedule once or twice a week. It is often said that your core (stomach and back muscles) is the engine of your running – certainly if you are not strong enough to hold your posture when you tire, your whole technique will degenerate.

Sports Massage

Many runners will schedule a sports massage at regular intervals throughout the year and use it as an “MOT” for the body. They are useful to help treat potential injuries before they cause you to miss a significant amount of training.

Learn more / further reading

  1. Planning Part 1
  2. Planning Part 2
  3. Running Technique
  4. Training for your Event


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